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PA Republican Plan to Rig Judicial System on Hold for Now – Update from Fair Districts PA

Here is an important Feb. 2 update from the Chairperson of Fair Districts PA:

Thank you to all who made calls, sent emails and rallied friends and neighbors to say NO to the judicial district bill, House Bill 38. We were definitely heard. In fact, Fair Districts PA was mentioned numerous times in the course of the House State Government meeting last week. The bill’s prime sponsor, Representative Russ Diamond, bragged that he doesn’t listen to “special interest” groups like Fair Districts PA or the League of Women Voters. Other legislators called attention to the groups who have spoken out against the bill and referenced Fair Districts PA’s concern about a new, unprecedented form of gerrymandering.

Despite far more expressions of opposition than support, and unanswered questions about the bill’s intent and implementation, HB 38 was voted out of committee with a 13-12 vote. Two Republicans joined the ten Democrats on the committee to vote NO. (See the web update here.)

Given how quickly that vote was scheduled, our concern was that the bill would then be voted out of the PA house earlier this week, with a vote in the senate early next week. Instead, it’s been tabled, with no further action. From what we can tell, it will NOT be on the ballot in May. While it’s possible legislative leaders will attempt to pass it in time for the general election in November, we are hopeful that the outcry of opposition from constituents, advocacy organizations and law associations turned the tide, convincing legislators and their leaders to set this very bad bill aside.
What’s next?
We’ll be turning attention to the redistricting process that will take place this year, despite census bureau delays. Join us on February 17 for a virtual town hall on the obscure five-person group called the Legislative Reapportionment Commission, responsible for drawing PA House and Senate districts. Draw the Lines will detail plans for the year and Fair Districts PA will provide an update on legislation to ensure greater transparency and public input.
Redistricting State Legislative Boundaries:
Drawing the Lines for the Next Decade
Virtual Town Hall, Sign up here
February 17, 4 to 5:30 pm
We’ll also continue to shine a light on PA’s broken legislative process and to dig into difficult questions:
  • Is there any other state that allows a constitutional amendment to speed through the General Assembly without a public hearing?
  • How many (or few) states allow legislators to block bills with demonstrated public support?
  • Who decides what bills get a vote? 
  • What would it take to restore a more accountable, collaborative process?
We are seeing the grave dangers of partisan gamesmanship. When every legislative act is an opportunity for partisan advantage, divisiveness escalates and the essential work of government remains undone. It’s time for better, clearer, less-gameable rules for the PA legislative agenda, for consideration of bills, and most of all, for drawing legislative districts.

None of this is simple or easy, but definitely worth the work. Thank you for your part in support of structural change.

Carol Kuniholm 
Fair Districts PA Chair

PS: Our regular monthly conference call will take place on Thursday, February 4, at 7 pm. Call in: 712-770-5505 / Access code: 594190. This call is for anyone who would like to learn more about what comes next or find out ways to become more involved. The calls are recorded and links shared on our website conference call event page.

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